The Mitsubishi Lancer has always been a great car for people who want to pretend they’re driving in a rally race.
High-performance versions of the Lancer, like the Evolution, prove exactly what this chassis is capable of doing when pushed to the max, but drivers of the ordinary, more affordable, grocery-getter Lancer sedan also benefit from a sporty feel. Crisp handling and precise steering are Lancer hallmarks.
Unfortunately, the current generation of this car first appeared around eight years ago. Compared to the newest sedans hitting the market in recent years, the 2014 Lancer feels more rough around the edges, in need of some polish.
The interior materials, cabin quietness and gas mileage all could be improved. The Lancer is rated for 34 mpg on the highway and 26 in city driving, which wasn’t bad when it was introduced but doesn’t impress when its more modern competitors are achieving 40-plus mpg ratings.
On the bright side, Mitsubishi is trying extra hard this year to make the aging Lancer a better value. Several changes are aimed attracting bargain hunters who want a nice level of equipment for the money.
The base DE model has been dropped, for example, so the new starting model, called the ES, comes with more standard equipment. It’s priced at $17,195.
My test car, a mid-range GT model, is one of several trim levels that get a standard touch-screen sound system and rear-view camera added for 2014. I loved the new audio system and found it easy to use — a big compliment when so many cars are fitted with fussy, less intuitive technologies these days.
While my car was equipped with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which has a tendency to sap the fun out of sporty cars, the Lancer still has enough acceleration to be enjoyable thanks to the optional 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine.
A smaller, 2.0-liter engine is also available.
For those drivers who want a bit more control, the CVT can be shifted using paddles behind the steering wheel that let you simulate the feel of a traditional transmission.
In addition, this car is available with a five-speed manual gearbox for those crazy purists like me.
The Lancer’s strong points are its steering, suspension and braking feel, all of which combine to give the driver lots of feedback over the road. It’s definitely more of a firm-riding sports sedan than a comfy, quiet highway cruiser.
Another plus is the availability of all-wheel drive, which you can get for well under $21,000 on the SE AWC model. It includes such niceties as the CVT transmission, heated seats and the touch-screen audio system, making it a good value for people who need or want the traction of all-wheel drive.